By Dan Walton
With several staffers shredding the sophomore status at the same time as the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) lifts its restriction on importing players from outside B.C., the Columbia Valley Rockies are expecting to bring more weight to the rink this season.
The Columbia Valley Rockies saw a large staffing turnover midway through the 2012-2013 season, with the Dubielewicz brothers coaches Wade, Scott and Kirk along with general manager Ross Bidinger taking over the club. As they begin their second full season at the helm, Mr. Bidinger said the new organization is taking a firmer shape.
Were recruiting at a higher level, he said, citing a different approach. Upon inheriting the team, they discovered Rockies players around the age of 18 were often recruited from teams that had previously released them, he said. Our 18 year olds now half of them will move up to a higher league.
Five players from last years team have advanced onto teams at the Junior A level: Logan Kerner, Mitch Rosko, Ryan Henderson, Matt Houston and Nigel Swab.
And with the removal of the import rule capping the number of players from outside the province at eight coaches will be able to act further upon the geographical advantage the Columbia Valley has in importing players from Alberta.
Theres a kid from Saskatchewan, Grand Prairie, Edmonton it really broadened our net for players, said Mr. Bidinger.
With less strain on the talent pool, the Rockies are looking to employ a more physically threatening team.
Were going for that fine line between being physical and staying out of the box.
While the roster has not yet been solidified, a few bodies from last season will be returning. Those include Tyson Kapty, Doan Smith (the 2012-2014 Rookie of the Year), Ryan Lawson, Carter Melnik, Damon Raven, Zach Schlitt, and goaltender Brody Nelson.
Currently, the team has more prospective players than it does space on the roster, so it is not yet known if Brody will act as starting goalie or not. The roster is expected to undergo tweaks through the first few months, but its first draft has been finalized.
The Rockies play their first game of the 2014-2015 regular season at home on Saturday, September 13th. At 7:30 p.m., theyll be taking on the Kimberley Dynamiters.
Kimberley will be a team to beat, Mr. Bidinger said, adding that the Dynamiters improved vastly over last season, and a large portion of their roster was retained.
Editors note: Similar to last year, regular Columbia Valley Rockies coverage will run weekly in the Invermere Valley Echo, available on news stands and by subscription every Wednesday. Keep an eye out for the annual Meet the Rockies feature coming up in both The Pioneer and The Valley Echo.